Advice to the Class of 2019: OWN your Education

It’s that time of year again. It’s back to school! So many of my friends are posting first day of school pictures of their young ones heading on to the bus or off to the classroom. I remember those days but now that my daughter is in college, my “first day of school” is much different.

It really begins with convocation. Here at Champlain College we have convocation on the Friday before classes start. Friday morning is move in day, get settled in a bit, say goodbye to your parents, convocation, and then various and sundry other epic adventures, capped off with academic orientation on Saturday morning. Want details on it all? By all means take a look at the Champlain College Orientation 2015 schedule!

Over the years, I’ve found that listening to the President’s speech and watching as students and families say goodbye has been both heartwarming and nostalgic. Up until last year it was the picture of things to come…and now I remember watching my daughter go through it as well. I enjoy convocation where we have the opportunity to see our incoming first years (this year is the Class of 2019), salute an outstanding citizen and hear words of wisdom from the Lyman Professor. Last year, my colleague and friend Dr. Nancy Kerr even brought props!  You can read her speech on our website.

Dr. Nancy Kerr and Dr. Mike Kelly (holding the typewriter)

This year, however, is going to be a whole new experience for me. You see I’ll now be the one standing up on that stage dropping words of wisdom on the incoming class of 2019. I have been awarded the honor of being the Lyman Professor for this year which comes with it a few nice perks and the privilege of giving a speech at convocation.

As I’m sure you can imagine this is both an honor and actually something that is quite overwhelming. I’ve spent the summer noodling on this and what I wanted to impart upon the incoming class and finally, this weekend as I sat on a rock by my pond, it started to gel.

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And here it is. Already Friday. And I’m about to give that speech. According to my daughter it is pretty good…actually she said “That’s going to be amazing”. Here’s hoping so.

For those of you who are unable to attend the convocation in person, here’s what I ended up writing.

Wow. Look at all of you. The Class of 2019!

I just listened to the President’s speech over at Akin Lawn and watched as you headed off in your groups and left your family members. You’ve mostly moved into your dorms if you live on campus, and for those of you living off campus, you’ve probably gotten the lay of the land at this point. Most of you are now, officially, “on your own”. Perhaps for the first time.

How does it feel?

How many of you are excited? … thrilled? … nervous? …. anxious? ….hungry?

Last year at Convocation my colleague and friend Dr. Nancy Kerr encouraged students to take out their cellphones and take a selfie, or a picture of the crowd and document this moment. I’m going to continue that tradition and encourage you all to take a minute and go for it. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook…just use the hashtag #champ2019. Go ahead. I’ll take my own and wait for you.

Oh and if you want to, go ahead and Meerkat or Periscope this speech, or live Tweet it. I can’t speak for my platform partners up here, but while I’m speaking go right ahead. I’ll trust that you aren’t going to just text random stuff to your friends. Naturally, texting what I have to say is ok, though.

So here we are. Getting ready to embark on a grand adventure together. Each of you filled with a variety of emotions — emotions that I feel too. I’ve watched this process of first years entering Champlain for almost 15 years and I’ve even watched my own daughter go through the process too. As a professor and a parent this time of transition is filled with all sorts of awesome. Really. There’s pride, wonder, nostalgia, worry, and even relief. As I thought about what I’d say today, and all the “advice” I wanted to drop, I realized that everything I had to say could be boiled down into one very distinct and specific message.

This education thing you’re doing? The next four years of your life? It’s yours. Let me say that again. It’s YOURS.  It belongs to you. This is no longer high school where you go through the motions because everyone tells you to. This is college. This is expensive. But no matter who is paying for it, or how you are making this work in your life, remember that this education belongs to you. So own it. If you love what you are doing, then stick to it. If you don’t then switch your major. Don’t let your families, your friends, even your professors have so much influence on you that you don’t pursue your education to its fullest. The next four years are so full of learning that you cannot be passive about it. Face each day with a sense of purpose because you never know what the day will bring and what you will learn from it. Yep. This is YOUR education.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many students during my time at Champlain. And I’ve watched all of them come in as first years and over the four years (sometimes five) that they have been here, I have watched every single one grow, change, and become young professionals who were ready to take on the world when they graduated. Trust me when I say to you that the person you are today, sitting here at Convocation, is NOT the person you will be in four years when you graduate from Champlain College.

The emotions you are feeling today are there because you know deep down inside that you are getting ready to embark on an adventure that will expand your mind, change your point of view, increase your knowledge, and make you a different person. I’m here to tell you that it is one of the most awesome experiences you can have. Look forward to it. Be excited and above all be open to all that is coming.

We live in times of great change. Every day we are reading news about challenges our country is facing. We are entering an election cycle and you all will have the opportunity to vote in your first presidential election. You are on a college campus where you can learn about other’s points of view. You can get involved and engage with clubs, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Student Government Association, Sustain Champlain — heck you can learn how to raise bees and sell honey! You can practice civic action and get involved with our Center for Service and Civic Engagement. As a student here you can exercise your voice and if you are unhappy with something this college is doing, you can band together and change it. Here is where you begin to learn that you not only have a voice, but you can use that voice to have a positive impact on those around you.

Every single moment you are at Champlain College is a learning opportunity. A step towards your future you. Think about it. Every single moment. Even right now.

In and out of the classroom you can take steps to your future you. And here are some things that will get you there:

Help each other. Right now, turn to the people around you and smile. A smile is the first step to friendships. Go beyond your dorm and your major. Some of the most powerful and long lasting friendships I’ve seen students make have come from being open to accepting others into their lives.

Take advantage of every opportunity. Be curious and open minded. Take on internships and work-based experiences. Say yes to study abroad. Get involved. Start a club. Challenge your stereotypes. Push your boundaries. Each time you do, you’ll be rewarded.

Use your resources. You’ve by now heard all about our “human touch”. (You just heard it from Pres. Laackman when he talked about Mind, Heart and Body.) Well it’s not just marketing (and I know marketing). Professors and staff actually do care. You aren’t alone here. Really. When you have questions, when you are uncertain, when you don’t know what action to take, even if you don’t know what question to ask…reach out to one of us. We will help you.

Remember that College is HARD. Change is HARD. Learning is HARD. So be kind to yourself. Eat well, get enough sleep. When you are feeling stressed, you are not alone. Your peers are stressed too…whether it is class work, personal life stuff, missing your family and friends, feeling overwhelmed…know that you are not the only person feeling this way and remember what I said earlier about using your resources. Don’t hide. Talk it out. You WILL be ok! 

Do NOT be afraid to FAIL. College is where you learn. When you FAIL remember that it is just your First Attempt In Learning. Entrepreneurs talk time and time again about the amount of failure they had before they succeeded. Now is the time to fail so you can learn and be ready when you enter the professional world. Don’t let failure stop you. EVERYONE fails. You belong here. Take it in stride. Learn from it. Grow.

Finally, relax. Chill Out. Enjoy the experience. Remember that there really is nothing so bad that it cannot be worked out. 

And above all, resolve to

Be.

Awesome.

Every.

Single.

Day.

Because you are awesome and you are here at Champlain College where we know you will flourish as you embark on one of the most amazing journeys of your life.

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  • It does not seem unreasonable to suggest that school years learning always are a good way to remember the best and worst things in life time. The guidance and advice given to the kids to make their way out smooth as well as boost up the future prospects completely worth in all the way.Every single initiative which are done in the school campus effective to move forward and present someone in the upcoming better life. That’s why it is always important for every students studying in their earlier ages. Thanks for sharing.